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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Kadikoy's DDR Trams

The original ? interior layout of a DDR tramcar with neatly trimmed seats and plenty of hanging straps as well as large sliding windows. Below : the same tram undergoing heavy maintenance in the simple depot cum workshop for the line. Tram's axle and wheelsets are alongside.

A ferry ride across the Bosphorous of about 25 minutes from the very busy Eminonu ferry terminus adjoining the equally busy Galata bridge is a more than impressive way to reach the Asian side of Istanbul. There are several ferrys to choose from, each serving a different district of this amazingly complex city straddling two continents. Our particular destination was the district of Kadikoy which has its own dedicated ferry services.

Our reason for travelling this time was to sample the second heritage and tourist tramway which Istanbul offers intrepid enthusiasts. Where else do you get to ride on a typical east German tram of the 1950s in passenger service? Kadikoy is the home to a particularly intriguing tourist line built possibly as a counter to the Taksim - Tunel tramway recorded in a previous blog. Not knowing what to expect we were surprised firstly by the lineup of double deck buses in pale blue livery standing next to the ferry terminal and providing some of the services in this area of the city. A metre gauge single track tramline indicated the additional presence of a unique service operated exclusively by Gotha built two axle cars exported to Istanbul from Germany some ten or so years previously.

More of a local tram service than a tourist line - the Kadikoy tramway operates from the commercial centre of this quite upmarket district taking a clockwise route through residential areas sited above the town. Much like the Graca circular of Lisbon - Kadikoy's neat red coloured cars grind their way up a steep incline through busy narrow streets to reach a prosperous residential area - before heading downwards back to the waterfront on an almost straight run before turning towards their starting point near the Ferry terminus and centre. Before doing so the trams passed a modest depot which understandably I opted to visit. Fortunately armed with a 2020 Souvenir Calendar the policeman at the gate waved me inside to meet some of the staff working this modest tramway outpost.

Below : Jena, Germany - a small system I visited in the 1990s. Ubiquitous Gotha two axle cars were evident (just). Some examples were part of the group exported to Istanbul for the 'new' Kadikoy heritage line.

A single track siding alongside the building held further Gotha-type cars whilst inside the solitary workshop track hosted a further example undergoing servicing. I was informed that there are six of these imports - all to the same Communist era design, some of which I believe come from the east German city of Jena, As it happens I visited Jena before that city's own tramway upgrade following reunification. Several Gotha cars were evident in their depot (Image). The new Kadikoy fleet numbers do not record their previous history so it is impossible to establish the German fleet number or identity of individual cars. An off peak single car service suffices to handle the local users - but given their limited capacity I found myself standing behind the driver's compartment for much of the journey. It is possible that peak times sees the service augmented with a second car needing to follow its scheduled leader. There are no passing loops and whilst the tramway is marketed as a heritage line there were few if any other enthusiasts in evidence on what were packed journeys.

Mr and Mrs Woodman stand by the fenced single track siding alongside the depot building with three further Gotha cars stored out of service.

Driver Youvzek Mekci just about to start his shift on the single operating car in service.

Whereas the Taksim service with its own solitary single track operation would seem to cater to tourists - the Kadikoy line provides a colourful and exceptional service for regulars with no need for marketing to tourists. If you want to sample 1950s tram travel on German built cars from DDR times - then Kadikoy is the place to go ! A Doubletree Hotel is sited directly across the road from the depot and can be seen in the background of the image above.

Another way to Kadikoy is using the excellent subway system of Istanbul which has a link directly to the waterfront station terminus within a few minutes walking distance of the T3 Kadikoy - Moda Tramway and depot (Below).

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